Houston might be a city of 2+ million people, but it can often feel like a small town. Neighborhoods have personalities all their own. And while much of the metro is (admittedly) strip malls and cul de sacs, pockets of the city can often surprise visitors with their vibrance, award-winning eateries, and renowned attractions. That’s if, of course, you know where to go. Here are 10 Houston neighborhoods that are well worth the visit.
It’s hard to find a neighborhood where you’ll get more bang for your buck than the Museum District. The area has 19 different cultural institutions, including Miller Outdoor Theatre, Houston Museum of Natural Science, and Children’s Museum of Houston. It also has some of the city’s favorite bites and libations like MF Sushi, Bar 5015, and Kaffeine Coffee Internet & Office Cafe. The neighborhood is remarkably walkable for Houston standards, and METRORail stops and BCycle stations make getting around the district fairly easy.
Pro tip: If you don’t mind a crowd, swing by the district on Thursday evenings when many of the institutions you normally have to pay for are free.
To call this neighborhood “eclectic” would be a bit of an understatement. Montrose is the kind of place where you can get grab avocado toast before getting a tattoo and shopping for antiques. Award-winning restaurants also make it a popular hangout for foodies. Whether it’s grabbing brunch at Baby Barnaby’s or swinging by Uchi for date night, Montrose tops the list of where to go to get the best food in Houston. When the sun sets, the nightlife is just as bustling as the daytime fervor, with many of the bars skirting the line between trendy and total dives.
If clubbing is your top priority, Midtown is the place to be. This pedestrian-friendly area neighbors downtown, the Museum District, and Montrose, and from Thursday to Sunday, the streets fill up with bar crawlers and diners meandering from one place to the next, sometimes even by pedal bar. While some of Houston’s best bars are in Midtown — including the hammock-laden Axelrad Beer Garden — the crazy nights can lead to some delicious mornings. The neighborhood boasts two of the city’s most popular brunch places, the Breakfast Klub and Weights + Measures that are worth braving the morning wait for.
Known for its shopping and nightlife, Galleria/Uptown is a posh neighborhood at the intersection of the 610 Loop and US-59, just west of downtown. The area is best-known for the Galleria mall, where hundreds of stores and restaurants — many of which are luxury brands — make it one of the largest malls in the country. The high-end shopping, however, is all part of the local aesthetic that’s reinforced by the area’s many classy hotels and restaurants.
Pro tip: If you venture that way on a weekend, come early. The traffic can be terrible, and parking is often scarce.
This trendy neighborhood has a quieter vibe than Midtown and Montrose while still offering a ton to do. It’s a mashup of sorts. The neighborhood is one of the oldest in Houston, and 20th century bungalows sit next to brand-new million-dollar homes. As a result, the neighborhood is a mix of retired couples and young parents unwilling to leave the trendy eateries of the Inner Loop but who still want a quiet life with access to parks and bike trails. Fun fact: A portion of the Heights was “dry” until 2017, making it one of the few areas of the country that prohibited most sales of alcohol after the end of Prohibition.
Most of downtown only operates during business hours, when thousands of office workers flow in and out of the tall concrete buildings, but that’s changing. In addition to the Theater District, Discovery Green, and multiple sports stadiums that light up at night. The shift towards residential living and vibrant nightlife is giving Houston’s epicenter something of a second wind. If you get a chance, be sure to check out the tunnels. The underground network is where most of the flurry of eating and shopping activity happens during the day and it's a fun experience for those who are used to living above ground.
An emerging area with something of an industrial edge, the East End/Eado neighborhood is becoming one of the hottest places in the city. A growing number of young professionals have moved in since the METRORail train line extended into the area, providing more travel options for those eager to live close to downtown but who don’t want condo living. It’s gritty in the way that urban areas often are, while at the same time full of life and creativity that’s hard to find anywhere else. A favorite Houston attraction is the unofficially dubbed “Graffiti Park,” a multi-block span where local artists have covered buildings in original art from top to bottom.
Don’t let the name fool you. While Chinese food is, indeed, abundant in Houston’s Chinatown, it’s not the only Asian fare you’ll find there. Houston’s diversity is an oft-underrated aspect of the nation’s fourth largest city. It’s home to one of the largest Indochinese populations in the United States — much of which is showcased in this west Houston neighborhood. The area is made up of a series of strip malls, carrying discounted items, delicious dim sum, and the impressive Hong Kong City Mall. The last of which has a host of interesting foods that are fun for adventurous eaters to sample.
The overwhelming majority of Houston’s population lives on the city’s west side, and the Memorial/Energy Corridor neighborhood serves almost like a satellite downtown. The area is home to many of Houston’s oil and gas companies and their employees, as well as the expansive Memorial Mall. At a glance, it feels a lot like suburbia — with it’s large homes and chain stores — but it has an urban flare, too. The neighborhood’s CityCentre is a large mall with a great mix of upscale and accessible dining and shopping that is a nice alternative to the crowded Galleria.
Like any city, Houston has its pockets of wealth. And while Houston’s River Oaks area and Upper Kirby neighborhoods are well-known for their opulence, West University Place (dubbed “West U” by locals) is its own little slice of utopia — literally. Technically, it’s not even part of Houston; it’s a sovereign town that happens to be completely surrounded by the city’s limits. But it’s proximity to the Texas Medical Center and downtown make it a popular residential hub for some of the city’s wealthiest families. As a result, it’s home to some of the best neighborhood playgrounds, breakfast places (looking at you, Tiny’s No. 5), and low-key shopping in the Houston metro.